Japan is renowned for its high-quality green teas. At first glance, it may seem that Japanese teas are fairly uniform because most (but not all) of them are green teas. However, there is a wealth of diversity in these jade brews. In part one of this two-part exploration of Japanese green teas, we’ll share some of the key differences that separate the main types of Japanese green teas, including origins, tea plants, shade growing and harvest times.

Origins

The main specialty tea-producing regions of Japan are Uji, Shizuoka and Kyushu.

Uji is known for Uji GyokuroUji Matcha and Uji Kabusecha, but there are also some exceptional Uji Sencha teas we’ve found in our travels. Tea from Uji is often called “Ujicha” or “Uji tea.”

Shizuoka is known for its Sencha and, especially, its light, sweet Shincha.

Kyushu tea is generally lower quality than Uji and Shizuoka tea. However, some Kyushu tea farmers are planting new and interesting varietals, and there are many organic tea farms in the region.

uji_teas_1

Tea Plants

The varietal of tea plant and the parts of the tea plant that are used to make tea also determine how a green tea will look, smell and taste.

Japan’s most common tea varietal is known as Yabukita, or “North of the Bamboo Forest.” Around Uji City, the Kyotowanabe is popular. And, of course, Kyushu is experimenting with new tea varietals. Each has a unique appearance, aroma and flavor when processed.

Many Japanese green teas use two leaves and one bud. However, some traditional Japanese teas are intentionally made of stems for a lower caffeine level and milder flavor. Our Green KukichaKukicha Twig Tea and Houjicha de la Crème are all examples of Japanese twig teas.

Japanese Twig Teas

Japanese Twig Teas

Shade Growing

Most Japanese green teas are grown in ample sunshine. However, a few are partially shade-grown to mimic the mists of high-elevation Chinese green teas. These teas include Gyokuro and Matcha (which are shade grown for 20 days or more before harvest), as well as Kabusecha (which is shade-grown for about two weeks before harvest).

Harvest Times

Sencha that is harvested in early spring is known as “Shincha” (or “new tea” or “first-flush Sencha”). Summer and fall pluckings of Sencha are often referred to as Bancha, a type of “everyday green tea” that’s commonly served after meals in Japan.

Depending on the region and the weather patterns of the year, Gyokuro (a type of shade-grown green tea) and Matcha (a shade-grown, powdered green tea) may also be plucked slightly later in the spring than Shincha.

More on Japanese Green Teas

In next week’s blog post, we’ll talk about the differences in processing and blending that distinguish Japanese green teas from one another.

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Clearspring Organic Kukicha Twig Loose Tea 125g (Pack of 3

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Kukicha Japanese Green Tea - Karigane Twig Tea from Japan - Carefully Blended with Sencha - Grade Karigane - Loose Leaf 100g

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  • Unusual and often overlooked, Karigane is a twig tea which offers a sweet, rich and pleasing flavour to those who try it. The mellow aftertaste is free of any bitterness, making it a firm favourite amongst those in the know.
  • Karigane is a premium Kukicha tea made using the stems and stalks of Gyokuro, a widely sought-after green tea.
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  • While the public are unfamiliar with this tea, it is highly regarded by the Japanese farmers we source it from. They make sure they always keep enough of their harvest for their own drinking pleasure!

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TitleOrganic Japanese Roasted Twig Tea, Kukicha 50g 20 Bags

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Tokyo Matcha Selection Tea - [Decaffeinated] Kihara Tea : Organic Kyobancha (Winter-roasted green tea leaves) 200g (7.05oz) from Kyoto [Standard ship by SAL: NO tracking number]

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  • [Decaffeinated] Low Caffeine: Bancha refers to teas that are picked after the first flush tea (i.e. summer, autumn harvest tea, or leaves and stems collected when trimming the tea plant in early winter and spring) or large leaves that are separated during processing.
  • However, bancha is found in different regions of Japan and so the name bancha does not always fall under the above description, having its own definition from region to region. Shinichi Kihara's Organic Kyobancha gives off a smoky aroma, but surprises you with a flavor that is both smoky as well as sweet.
  • Kihara-san grows without pesticides or fertilizers. Unique to the city of Kyoto from which it gets name, Kyobancha is harvested from tea leaves and twigs that have matured over the winter months and then roasted producing a very woodsy flavor.
  • Often called gbancha for babiesh because it has almost no caffeine, it is also called gspring banchah (haru bancha) because it is harvested in March from winter matured leaves.
  • Rarely offered outside of Japan, it is even quite rare to find it in supermarkets in Japan as well. Shinichi Kihara's Kyobancha gives off a smoky aroma, but surprises you with a flavor that is both smoky as well as sweet.

Tokyo Matcha Selection Tea - Premium Shiraore Houji - KIKOH - roasted aroma green tea 130g (4.58oz) from Shizuoka Japan [Standard ship by SAL: NO Tracking & Insurance]

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  • [Allergy Info] allergen free
  • Houjicha is a type of green tea made by roasting sencha, bancha, or sometimes kukicha (twigs) over a fire in a pot at high temperature until the tea leaves turn reddish-brown.
  • This process reduces the astringency and bitterness, bringing out the light, toasty flavor while lowering the caffeine contained in the tea.
  • How about ''Shiraore''?: Shiraore is a type of hojicha leaf made with carefully picked stems of the first tea leaves to be harvested of the year (called 'kukicha' with the term kuki meaning a stem). Such a high-grade tea is especially called Karigane or Shiraore twig tea in Japan.

Japanese Green Kukicha Twig Tea, 100g

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  • Produced by Ejima Tea Company - established 1661
  • Shelf life: 12 months
  • Grown and processed in Japan
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